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With the ashes of his famously unsuccessful defence in a defamation lawsuit still smoking last fall, Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day levelled a similar accusation against a prominent Toronto lawyer.

A lawyer for Mr. Day warned Toronto litigator Bert Raphael that he had 48 hours to retract "defamatory and libellous" statements in a letter to a newspaper linking the Alliance and its leader to several well-known Holocaust deniers.

At the time, Mr. Day was embroiled in the final days of a federal election campaign. He was also busy dealing with the fallout of a defamation lawsuit launched by Alberta lawyer Lorne Goddard, which was eventually revealed to have cost Alberta taxpayers almost $800,000.

"Stockwell Day's judgment continues to be flawed," Mr. Raphael said in a recent interview. "Here is a man who wants to run the country, yet he lacks such fundamental judgment that in the middle of a campaign for prime minister, he worries about a letter to the editor."

Mr. Raphael said he decided to release correpondence regarding the letter to The Globe and Mail because the three months in which Mr. Day could have followed up his threat with legal action has elapsed.

"You would think he'd have learned from the [Alberta lawsuit]debacle, but he just goes from one absurdity to the next," Mr. Raphael said. "He shoots from the hip all the time."

In an aggressive letter to Mr. Raphael last November, Alliance lawyer Jack Berkow insisted that Mr. Raphael retract statements published under his name in a letter to the editor of The Toronto Star.

The letter criticized Mr. Day for not trying harder to distance himself and the party from Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel and James Keegstra and their lawyer, Douglas Christie. It also took the Alliance to task for not condemning anti-Semitism more boldly.

"These allegations are completely false and have been thoroughly refuted on the public record," Mr. Berkow wrote. "Mr. Day has been criss-crossing the country with a message of respect and has condemned the anti-Semitic element in our world at every opportunity. It would, in fact, be accurate to say that Mr. Day is both privately and publicly pro-Jewish.

"The implications of your letter -- despite extensive reporting on the public record refuting the charges that Mr. Christie or Mr. Keegstra are in any way associated with Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance -- are defamatory and libellous," it continued.

"On behalf of our clients, we require an immediate public retraction of these false and inflammatory charges."

Mr. Raphael, a well-known civil litigator, past president of the Advocates Society and president of the Jewish Civil Rights Educational Foundation of Canada, called Mr. Day's bluff.

"In my view, you have completely misread the intent of my letter, and I see no basis to ask the Toronto Star for a retraction, nor for me to apologize," he wrote to Mr. Berkow on Nov. 23, 2000. Mr. Raphael said it was the last time he heard from the Alliance.

Alliance communications director Ezra Levant defended his leader as someone with "a very vigorous, two-way friendship with Toronto's Jewish community that is famous."

Mr. Levant said that although he couldn't think of any other confrontations between Mr. Raphael and the party, "he is a gadfly. He is someone who appears to have a tremendous personal animus toward the Alliance and Mr. Day in spite of the fact that no federal leader has taken as many steps to build bridges with the Jewish community.

"You have a highly partisan person trying to distract away from the fact that he made unsupportable statements that were defamatory."